Province forks over cash to horse-racing industry

A man wears a button in favour of a Woodbine Casino during a public consultation on a casino in Toronto held at the Etobicoke Olympium Gymnasium in Toronto, Ont on Monday Jan. 14, 2013.

Credits: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency


TORONTO — The Ontario government is refusing to say how much money it's paying Woodbine Entertainment in "transition" funding to keep horse racing alive at the Woodbine and Mohawk tracks.

Premier Dalton McGuinty's government issued a statement Wednesday saying it is now another step closer to a sustainable horse-racing industry with an agreement in principle with Woodbine.

"In order to receive transition funding, racetracks will have to meet accountability and transparency requirements," a statement from Rural Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin said.

But that clarity doesn't extend to telling taxpayers how much money is involved in the deal.

"Negotiations are still ongoing with a number of racetracks and disclosing this information could impact those negotiations," Susan Murray, a spokesman for McMeekin, said. "Because of this, dollar values aren't being released at this time."

Woodbine has scheduled a media conference Thursday to discuss the agreement.

"The transition funding provides much needed stability for the industry. We are pleased with the government's commitment to ensure the long-term viability of horse racing and breeding, which has a proud heritage in Ontario,” Woodbine Entertainment Group CEO Nick Eaves said in a statement.

An industry insider told QMI Agency the deal with Woodbine is positive for horse racing and will save jobs.

The McGuinty government announced in 2011 that the Slots at Racetracks Program which poured about $345 million a year into horseracing in Ontario, would come to an end.

The horse-racing community immediately reared up, arguing it would lead to the death of the industry and quite literally tens of thousands of horses.

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